Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Royal Surprises: What is Different About 2011?

           How fun has it been to watch Kansas City Royals baseball this season?  Most fans can probably agree that this is the most fun to watch team Kansas City has had in well over a decade.  This is due to a number of things falling into place, one of the most important and overlooked being the chemistry.  It seems as if this year’s team genuinely enjoys playing together and just loves playing baseball.  That aspect has been missing for a number of years.  Thanks to the perfect combination of eager rookies, passionate veterans, and a collection of players who just needed a vote of confidence, the Royals have found that “we deserve to win every game” attitude.

                Credit must be given to guys like Jeff Francoeur and Matt Treanor, who were acquired this off season.  Treanor has handled the younger pitchers unbelievably well and has showed no fear while being run over multiple times in plays at the plate.  Oh yeah, and there was that walk off home run, no big deal.  Jeff Francoeur has always played well without trade rumors and the harsh criticisms of media swirling, but as soon as he hits a slump and no longer feels comfortable, he loses himself.   Kansas City and Dayton Moore have provided that stable and easy atmosphere for him so far, but it will be interesting to see how he handles his first slump.

                The real surprises of the young season are the emergence of Alex Gordon and the “Puerto Rican Sensation” Bruce Chen.  Gordon seems to have finally figured it all out.  Watching the way he carries himself in the batters box, on the field, and even during interviews, you can tell he finally has that swagger that he has been missing.  The swagger that says “I am really good, you know it and I know it”.  Many people called Bruce Chens 2010 a fluke, but he is quickly putting that to rest with his great command and control.  More importantly he has been consistent, which is the hardest thing to do to be a good major league starting pitcher.
Not to go unnoticed is the sensational rookie relief trio of Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Jeremy Jeffress.  Obviously we can assume there will be times this season where they will struggle, but they have done an incredible job getting the ball to Joakim Soria so far, who has oddly enough been the most inconsistent pitcher in the Royals bullpen.  Billy Butler isn’t getting the credit he deserves due to his reduced defensive role and being the only player worth noting the past two seasons.  Even though Billy is playing as well as he ever has; now that the team is winning the attention is going to be put on the new faces that are contributing.

The season is young, but this team has been very fun to watch and have given fans hope that this year could be different.  If nothing else, it's fun to watch the Royals compete past the first Twins series (which seems to be the one that starts the down hill spiral every year).  

Honorable mention: Alcides Escobar’s spectacular defense and highlight reel throws.  Chris Getz showing that he can in fact hit a baseball out of the infield.  Melky Cabrera’s weight loss paying dividends.  Ned Yost, for giving the team a chance to win by being aggressive on the base paths.